Tryouts Next Weekend
Youth Soccer With New Direction
by Laura Russo
Soccer enthusiasts have a new reason to cheer, thanks to Islander John Palladino. Soccer is soon to go from a team sport to a community sport.
Tryouts are next weekend.
Palladino is the founder and head of Palladino Academy, and head coach of the Roosevelt Island United Football Club (RIUFC), new ventures that are the only outlets for competitive youth soccer on Roosevelt Island.
Soccer is Palladino’s life. Raised in Spokane, Washington, he has been coaching soccer since age 15. He played on a full scholarship throughout his student years at Gonzaga University, then later returned to coach there. On moving to Roosevelt Island two years ago, he immediately noticed the lack of opportunity for Island kids who wanted to train at a competitive level. “I was walking outside one day and I saw kids playing, so I investigated. I realized there was just a recreational team, but there was no opportunity for kids to really train,” he said.
In the spring of 2013, Palladino took it upon himself to fill the void by starting the Palladino Academy. “I started with one kid, then I had five, now we have almost 40 kids in the program.
“Coaching is my passion. I’ve coached at all levels, but I really enjoy working with the kids,” Palladino said. His training methodology comes straight from his own experience training, and later coaching, at the Seely Soccer Academy in Spokane. “There is definitely a philosophy behind the way [the academy] runs – hard work, fairness, dedication, honesty, and enjoyment.”
For Palladino, the training is not limited to the field. “I want the kids to conduct themselves the same everywhere, with fairness. This is about earning what you get, believing in yourself, and knowing what you can accomplish.”
Parents on Roosevelt Island are just as excited as the kids to be working with Palladino. Aiesha Eleusizov’s son, Zamir, is 11 years old. He’s been playing competitive soccer since age eight. “For three years, we’ve had to travel to Pier 40 on the Hudson, three times a week, so Zamir can train,” Eleusizov said. “It was really frustrating, because we have such great facilities [on the Island], but no proper programs.”
Rhonda Pringle echoed Eleusizov’s sentiments, saying “Traveling to practices after school is exhausting for kids. Now we have something right on our doorstep.”
Having a competitive training program on Roosevelt Island is not just about the convenience, but also about the community, Eleusizov said. “Now, kids have the opportunity to receive high-quality training, but also to be a part of the community and foster relationships. A big piece of this is being able to play here. We have a lot of pride on Roosevelt Island.”
Pringle not only has two sons in Palladino’s program, but is also the Marketing and Fundraising Manager for Palladino Academy. She said that watching the children develop in an Island-based program is fantastic, and she’s working to get them involved in fundraising as well. In the coming weeks, residents can look forward to a bake sale manned by the kids in the program. Pringle said, “It will be an opportunity for the kids to talk about what they are doing, and get people excited.”
Another reason for players and parents to get excited is RIUFC’s recent partnership with the New York Red Bulls. Palladino said that John Massey, Interim Club President, was the main conduit for making the partnership happen. A major coup for RIUFC, the partnership will allow players direct access to the Red Bulls players, and training with the coaches.
While still a startup, the Red Bulls organization has been incredibly accommodating and easy to work with, Massey said. In addition to providing a high level of training for the kids, Massey hopes that bringing in a name brand will attract more revenue for the club and thus the Island.
Money is a concern, especially with the cost of equipment, field fees, and insurance, said Massey, but “It’s very important that the opportunity is offered to all kids on the Island.” He added, “The bottom line is having a plan for the kids to be involved in soccer on any level on Roosevelt Island.”
A scholarship fund is in the works, and the parents are very involved, said Massey. In addition, he is working on obtaining sponsorships with local businesses to raise capital. He said that the opportunities for branding on the web and on team uniforms would be a boon for local businesses. Massey said it’s a challenge, but he hopes the timing is right with the imminent Cornell Tech campus and the management of storefronts on Main Street by Hudson/Related.
Cultivating a symbiotic relationship between the club and local businesses is the ideal situation, said Massey. “We’ll really get the most traction if we come together as a group. This is literally Main Street, USA.”
In the end, Massey said, “It’s simple, it’s about the kids and the ball.” He noted that one of Palladino’s great strengths as a coach is his involvement on the field. “John gets in there and the kids get to see the speed of play and control. It’s fluidity in motion.”
For those interested, RIUFC will have open tryouts on Saturday, May 16, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and on Sunday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Octagon Field.
Tags: Island Life